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Remote work - it's not vanilla!

Updated: Mar 31

Struggling with the juggling? It's not as simple as taking your laptop home during the 'C' crisis.


What a week it’s been for so many of us. My inbox has (unsurprisingly) been inundated with information from my industry on how to set up and lead remote work forces. I’ve also had plenty of clients asking for advice. Here’s my take.

"Work from home during the ‘C’ word

is not the vanilla we once knew. "

What's with 'vanilla'?


Well firstly, vanilla ice-cream is the standard. It’s the most popular – because it’s good. We need to remember that. Below are some excellent pieces of work from home advice that I personally take as often as I can and often use with others:


  • Set up a work-space away from the hubbub of home

  • Be clear about your work time and personal time being separate

  • Let your colleagues and team know your availability

  • Dress for work

  • Use the phone more – call when you can rather than e-mail. It helps you stay connected

  • Have a daily plan of what you want to get done (this is sensible wherever you are)

  • Get your hardware right – phone, computer, chair etc

  • Get up and stretch often – even more often than in work


Here’s the reality for many people:


  • There are more than one of us working from home

  • We are fighting for internet bandwidth

  • When my partner is on the phone, I can’t concentrate

  • I’m home schooling my kids whilst this is happening (or supervising their online learning)

  • My partner is a shift worker - and normally sleeps while we're at work/school

  • I’m alone working at home and trying to home school/care for my kids

  • I’ve had to separate from family members due to health concerns

  • The kids are constantly in the fridge

  • Or fighting....

  • EVERYTHING is different.

Below are some of my tips


Firstly, go through the vanilla list from above with a piece of paper beside you. Against each item write a note. That note will say one of three things


  • Easy to achieve

  • Impossible to achieve

  • Can achieve partly or a different way (and note what you might do)


Where you have listed things as impossible, challenge yourself with the third point. If you changed some other things, or the time of day that you do certain things, could you progress? Even a little?


Share that list with your manager, partner, friends and family – ask them how they are managing. They may have tips to help you with the 'impossibles'.


I urge leaders of organisations and teams to open up flexible working hours SIGNIFICANTLY.


Do you really need workers to be

working traditional office hours?


Could your valued employees work 50% of their hours during traditional hours and make the others up in other ways? Whether it’s because of kids, internet, family, partner or any other need, I think life could work really well if we all bought into a 24-hour integrated planning system! Sounds pretty fancy huh. Its actually simple.


Let me provide an example. Let’s pretend that my partner Marty – commonly known as ‘the long-suffering Martinez’ is working from home full time. He is a land surveyor. I am a (newly crowned) online wellness and culture consultant. 50% of Marty’s day is on the phone to clients and 50% doing highly technical surveying work on is computer dealing with thousands of data points and measures – I call it ‘clicking’.


Let’s also pretend for a moment that our 4 beautiful sons – commonly referred to as ‘the knuckleheads’ are younger than they really are. Two in primary school and two in secondary school - these days referred to as remote school from home! There can be up to 6 of us fighting for internet and there's no way that Marty and I can effectively supervise them and get our respective jobs done in a traditional working day. Marty and I come up with an editable calendar that we reckon could work. It covers a period of 24 hours. Check out the snapshot below.



If you'd like a copy to use at your end, click on the pic and a window will open up. We are asking for $4 per download, of which $2 will go towards helping victims of domestic violence get support and training to re-enter the workforce. The other $2 - a small donation to keep me in the workforce! :)


By using some automated color coding, we can quickly ascertain whether we have the right balance. In this case, Marty is working roughly 7 solid hours per day as his business is still busy being a supplier to essential services. I am working around 5 hours on this day with plenty of flexibility to squeeze in some extra after dinner, or during some of my supervision time - whilst keeping those ‘mum eyes in the back of my head’ on the kids. I’m delegating a bit of supervision to the older kids here too. If you want to be treated like a grown up, step up I say!


The kids are doing ‘academic’ education 5 hours per day. I've spoken to an expert in this area and I'm told that is the absolute maximum and would be relevant to secondary schoolers. For primary school parents - please seek advice from your children's schools as to how many hours per day to allocate to the academic bits and other stuff like exercise, creativity etc. The you can plan on their advice for creative pursuits, hobbies and exercise time. Don't forget there's an enormous amount of organic learning that our kids and we are going through as the world changes in front of us all.


This calendar shows a pretty traditional work structure. I’ve deliberately made it 24 hours to accommodate those with shift workers in the family and the like so that everyone’s time can be reflected.


It might take a few minutes to fill out, but our interactive version makes it easy. And those few minutes will not only save you time, but stress and frustration and people battle through this strange time. You can adjust it daily according to your daily needs, print it, and create copies.


We’ve also got some handy tools for your own individual planning. Planning your time and what you'll achieve is incredibly important right now. It gives us certainty, helps us see that we are still productive and positive.


My contingency is bringing the laptop to the couch at TV time, but I reckon if I plan well enough, I can gain efficiencies to make up for the lost hour at my desk.

If you have a tool that you use, or an idea for improving this one, let us know. The pic below shows both sides our our new A5 Take a Moment planner. Head over to our store where you can order your own, or even 1 each for your team, delivered direct to their doors, wherever they are based through a reputable national mail management service. I've also got some free webinars lined up this week click here to see what and when.



I'd love to hear your stories and experiences - together we can learn so much!


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